CLARIFIED TEXT: Canadian Trucking Alliance seeks help from carriers to clarify cabotage, immigration

NOTE: The original text referred only to equipment cabotage. The CTA is seeking comments from carriers on enforcement of immigration policy as well.

KELOWNA, B.C. (June 14) — If you experience uneven or unfair enforcement of U.S. policy on equipment cabotage or immigration, the Canadian Trucking Alliance wants to hear about it.

CTA senior vice-president Graham Cooper said some of his association’s 2200 carrier members at times have suffered under an “abusive process” when interpretation of the policy on the use of Canadian drivers to haul foreign-based equipment from point to point within the United States.

He described actions by individual officers ranging from fines and minor enforcement hassles to the seizure of vehicles.

“I think you’ll find that in general terms, U.S. Customs has been reasonable” in its interpretation and enforcement of immigration policy, Cooper told an audience Friday at the British Columbia Trucking Association annual convention in Kelowna, B.C. “But there are things we need to clarify.”

In an interview, Cooper added, “We want to build a file so we can look for obvious patterns of how the policy is being interpreted, especially on incidental moves. I think U.S. Customs will be receptive to whatever information we can give them.”

In 1997, U.S. Customs and Revenue Canada harmonized their policies that define when vehicles are engaged in international or domestic traffic. Under the new interpretations, the origin and destination of merchandise carried determines whether trucks are involved in international or domestic movements, allowing empty trailers to be repositioned within a foreign country.

A third and more contentious agreement, which came into force in March, dealt with so-called “incidental” moves. It allows a Canadian truck to conduct a domestic move in the United States following, or prior to, an international trip. Domestic goods may be transported between two points in the U.S., as long as the truck is heading in the general direction of an export load or back to Canada. This regulatory change harmonizes Canadian and U.S. rules governing these types of movements.

In each case, the driver must be eligible to work in the foreign country under its immigration and employment rules.

The U.S. Customs service has a broad definition of the word “general,” Cooper explained, “Which is great. By keeping this broad, they1re saying to carriers, ‘You come to us with something reasonable and the likelihood is that we will go along with it.'”

If you apply for clarification of whether the move you want to make is incidental or not, get the response in writing. A written response “has force of law,” Cooper said. So far, however, the U.S. Customs has received no requests for written rulings.

Cooper said the CTA would continue to lobby the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to allow foreign drivers and equipment to haul domestic loads. Under such circumstances, foreign drivers are considered “local labor for hire,” and are ineligible to work in the U.S. without a permit.

For information, contact Cooper at the CTA offices in Ottawa; 613/236-9426.

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